A trail of fanzine reviews and band connections led me to Frana and their own brand of twisted, frantic and yet melody-driven punk-rock. One thing leading to another, the Italian foursome is coming to rock Geneva beginning of November and Luca (vocals, guitar) and Francesco (bass) accepted to answer this little interview.
There’s something in your sound – especially in the voice – that reminds me of some post-punk bands from the 1980s. Are you interested in bands of that period?
Luca : Hmm… The 80s… Hmm… Not sure, my references are more placed in the 90s. But I don’t know, most of the time I just do something clueless of where it comes from.
Francesco : It’s not the first time somebody makes this connection. After one of our last shows, a guy from the audience told Luca that he sings just in the same way as Boon from Minutemen – of course he doesn’t recall this. Talking for myself, some of my favorite all-time punk bands are from the 80s. Take Hüsker Dü, Mission of Burma, Big Black, Fugazi. We actually recorded a version of Chartered Trips by Hüsker Dü in a tribute compilation by TBTCI.
And I love 80s brit post-punk, which I think is a mandatory inspiration for a bass player. Wire, Gang of Four, Joy Division…
I believe you live far away from each other. How do you manage to make the band work nevertheless? Can you see any positive aspects to this situation?
L : It has been more complicated than this. Frana was born in Germany. Francesco and I lived in Munich for a few years, and there it all started. We had no friends and we decided to start a band. Then in 2015 both of us moved back to Italy. It’s complicated… at some point we were living 1000 kilometers away from one another with the Alps in between: drummer in Munich, bass player in Florence, guitar player in Genova and myself in Milano. It’s much better right now, just a few hundred kilometers, we sort of manage to practice regularly. Positive aspects? Hmm… not many. Well, we don’t see each other so often, so we have no chance to get annoyed by each other. Lol.
F : Yeah, I live in Florence, but we are all within 300 km from each other. The key to success with this situation are trains and highways… We found some sort of balance. Writing a record in this configuration was very different from what I was used to before. You know, you can’t just go to the practice room and dick around. You have to make the best out of every session and do your homeworks. Maybe you can say it’s even more efficient, just maybe.
The cover of your LP, « Awkwardwards », is pretty cool. Who drew it?
L : Silvia Sicks, a friend we have first met when we played in Rome. I had an idea for some crazy drawings, I tried to explain it to her and she nailed it ! She’s also a songwriter and we’ll play a couple of shows together with her acoustic project “Tunonna”. My favorite element on the cover is the flying cement-mixer-monster, it is the very same “Panpo, the destroyer” that gives the title to the album’s second track. The cover tries to express what is the “Awkwardwards”. This is obviously a self-made word, which could be rephrased as “towards the awkward”. Besides the meaning, I like it coz it sounds quite wrong.
There seems to be quite a lot of nonsense involved in the aesthetics of Frana. Nonsense can be seen as a response to a bewildering situation. So what are the bewildering situations you are reacting to, if any?
L : I like the nonsense and I use it a lot, for fun or sometimes even as a way of life. I like it better than struggling to find deep meanings, as in our lyrics. It’s a fairly free expression of something you have in mind, outside the typical borders, and the boredom of rationality. Clearly, nonsense is never really nonsense… If your brain produced something, some association of words, some ideas that might look random, it’s never really nonsense, just you don’t understand it, maybe you will one day, maybe you won’t ever. There’s always something more than mere aesthetics.
F : I guess the whole universe is fairly bewildering, when you think about it. I mean, not so long ago, dinosaurs were ruling the earth. “God creates dinosaurs, God destroys dinosaurs. God creates Man, man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.” Will we ever witness the end of our galaxy, swallowed altogether by a supermassive black hole? Nah, I guess we’ll awkwardly destroy ourselves and everything else, well before that point.
Are there any band or artists that you found particularly inspiring in that (non)sense ?
F : Devo. Very surrealistic. Shellac as well. And how to forget Blue by Eiffel 65.
Do you think a rock song can reach the status of a classical piece of art or will it remain a piece of pop culture, easily consumed and then forgotten ?
L : Well, music is on the internet nowadays. So as long as the internet exists, music exists, even if it’s gonna be forgotten, it’s gonna be still there, ready to be discovered again.
F : That’s a difficult one…I don’t see a clear contrast between art and pop culture. The border is fading.
What are the italian or german bands that are close to your hearts and that we should be aware of ?
L : On the german side, I’ll go for Trigger Cut, brand new band. Our former drummer plays in there with Ralph that we know from Buzz Rodeo (RIP). My pick of the week it’s them, they just released some very juicy material and we’ll be sharing the stage with them in January.
F : The Italian side on me. Check out Lleroy, cool people and furious shows.
You guys are creating music, putting out records and touring regularly in a DIY/independent network. What is the best thing about that and what is the one that you like the least?
L : The best part of it is that people do that only because of passion and enthusiasm, because they feel it and the want to do it, no money is involved. The other side of the coin is that it’s difficult, as there’s no money involved it’s hard to manage shows, get even with traveling costs. And the record market, at least in Italy, it’s quite down, as much as the “generational change” failed. Young kids are not interested in rock and punk music anymore, so bands grow old together with their audience.
Do you like reading about music? Is there any magazine or website that you check regularly?
F : I regularly check a few zines, like Perte et Fracas. But to find new stuff I mostly rely on friends’ opinions and word of mouth. Very old school and not much time.
Are you active in any other way in the punk-rock scene, musically or otherwise?
L : In the past, back in 2004-2009, I used to organize shows in Milan and the suburbs in several squats and bars. When I moved to Munich, I started over, it took a while but I used to organize shows in a very lovely spot called Kafe Marat. Now, that I moved back to Milan, I’m not putting up shows, at least for the moment, not much time and no place where I can do it, but I’m trying to get back doing that. That’s my personal contribution, besides playing in bands, to the punk-rock-noise-metal-hardcore-whatever-diy scene.
You’re going to play Geneva in November. Can you tell us a little bit about this tour?
F : Well, that weekend we have been invited to play in Stuttgart…Geneva is right on the way back to Milan, glad it worked out! It will be our first time in Geneva. The following week we’ll be playing a bunch of shows in south France. Then Italy, with some more shows in November and December, and more Germany in January (for all the dates check our Facebook page). We love to play in Switzerland, we used to know the guys from Deadverse (RIP)… We should do definitely do it more often. Book us if you like our stuff !